Sheila A. Kelly, former human resources director for the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, dies

Sheila A. Kelly, former executive director of human resources for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, died July 23 at the Maris Grove Retirement Community in Glen Mills, Pa., from congestive heart failure.

The former Bolton Hill and Homeland resident was 75.

“When I think of Sheila, I think of her as a churchwoman,” said the Rev. Patrick M. Carrion, pastor of the Catholic Community of South Baltimore. “She was very pastoral and dedicated to the church.”

Sheila Ann Kelly was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., the daughter of Thomas S. Kelly, and Mary Esther Clearly Kelly, a homemaker. Her father was killed at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II when she was 2 years old.

She was a graduate of Mount Mercy Academy in Buffalo and received a bachelor’s degree from D’Youville College, also in Buffalo.

In 1965, she entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and spent years teaching and in educational administration at Philadelphia-area parochial schools. She left the order in 1987.

From 1968 to 1969, she taught at the Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia, and later was on the faculty of Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote, Pa. In the 1970s, she was principal of the now-closed Melrose Academy in Elkins Park, Pa.

While living in Philadelphia, Ms. Kelly obtained a master’s degree from Temple University and, after moving to Baltimore, earned a second master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

In 1981, she joined the Archdiocese of Baltimore in the human resources department and was eventually named executive director.

“It was Archbishop William D. Borders who appointed Sheila as the first woman to an executive position at the Catholic Center,” said Kristine Smets, a Bolton Hill resident and longtime friend.

Father Carrion, who was also at the center from 1998 to 2006, said Ms. Kelly was “very gentle and had a nice way about her.”

Monsignor Jay F. O’Connor, pastor of Our Lady of the Fields Roman Catholic Church in Millersville, was a longtime friend and co-worker.

“We both started at the same time at the Catholic Center, and Sheila was very committed to helping the church grow — and she did this through human resources. She was also really committed that people were treated justly,” said Monsignor O’Connor, who was director from 2006 to 2012 of the archdiocese’s Division of Clergy Personnel.

“Sheila was a very compassionate person and had a great sense of humor,” he said. “In those days when she first came here, they didn’t have an office for her, and since I was out quite a bit, I gave her mine. She was most grateful and, in the end, I did get another office and she became my boss. She was always very gracious.”

In 1996, she was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontiface by Pope John Paul II in recognition of her years of devotion to the Catholic Church.

In 2004, she went to Washington and joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as deputy director of its Office of Child and Youth Protection. After retiring in 2009, she moved to Wilmington, Del., where she continued to work as a human resources professional.

Ann Neale, a former member of the Grey Nuns order and a longtime friend of Ms. Kelly, called her a “highly respected figure nationwide in Catholic Church personnel circles.”

Even though she had left Baltimore, Ms. Kelly continued to be a communicant of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in Bolton Hill and was an active member of its faith community.

“This was her family and she continued to drive down from Wilmington,” said Ms. Smets, a member of the church since 1995. “Sheila was a woman who knew what she wanted and was very religious. She always said, ‘Being Catholic is in your genes.’ She was also strong proponent of the stature of women in the archdiocese and wrote about that.”

Monkton residents Mark Herbkersman and his wife, Martha Craig, were also members.

Ms. Kelly “played an important role in a man’s world and you could feel her energy,” Mr. Herbkersman said. “She got respect because she deserved it.”

“She was an incredibly intelligent woman, very thoughtful, smart, well-informed and well-respected in her career,” said Ms. Craig. “Sheila had a very important position with the archdiocese. She commanded respect but not in an overbearing way.”

Ms. Kelly was not especially fond of Christmas. “She always gave a humbug party on Christmas Day, but she loved Easter,” Ms. Smets said.

For the past two years, Ms. Kelly had lived at the Glen Mills retirement community.

She was a student of history — especially Irish history — and maintained a lively interest in politics, literature and the arts. She was also a world traveler and was fond of visiting Ireland.

“Waking up on her 75th birthday at her favorite hotel in Dublin, the Shelbourne Dublin, was on her bucket list, and she got to do that with several friends,” Ms. Neale said. “She was very proud of her Irish Catholic democratic heritage.”

“Her friends describe her as having been a woman of wit, wisdom, wonderful in spirit and insight, and a comfortable and caring friend,” a friend wrote in a biographical profile. “She will be missed by many.”

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Nov. 3 at her church, 110 W. Lafayette Ave., Bolton Hill.

She is survived by a sister-in-law, Claudia Kelly, of Hamburg, N.Y.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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